Guild Wars 2: Happy patch day, everyone!

pistoleerYesterday was fun to watch on the Guild Wars 2 forums, Twitter, and elsewhere — everyone wanted that Feature Pack patch to drop and ArenaNet took its sweet time getting it out.  But by the time my household went to bed, it was online and seemingly functioning just fine.

There was certainly a lot to do once I logged into the game.  I had to check on each of my characters to collect all of my skins and get my bonus dyes (I ended up with 26 unidentified dyes and 79 transmute charges).  Our guild was sharing dye doubles with each other like crazy, so I put a bunch in the bank and took several out.  I’m pretty happy with the colors I’ve ended up with, and it’s certainly nice that all of my characters have access to all of the ones that I collected.

I certainly do like the renewed focus on collecting with this patch: collecting dyes, collecting skins, and even collecting the new traits.  Probably the happiest moment of the night was when I was finally able to unlock the skin for the Super Adventure Box staff that’s been lurking in my bank, unusable due to the fact that it was soulbound to a deleted character.

It definitely makes heart vendors more worthwhile, since the gear they sell often comes with unlockable skins.  Now I need to go around the game and check out all of the ones I’ve opened up!

I didn’t do a lot of wardrobe changes, funnily enough.  My Ranger and Engineer already have the outfits that I want them in, and I don’t have a lot of light armor skins for my casters.  I did splurge on a pair of sunglasses from the gem store because I always said that if Anet made town clothes usable in the larger game, I’d put my money into it.  I loved seeing notices saying that skins were unlocking as I looted them; it gave more meaning to looting, which is always good.

Mostly I puttered around on my Necromancer to finish up a zone and get dailies out of the way.  I was a bit bummed that dailies no longer automatically include gathering as one of the options, so it felt like getting five done last night took longer than normal.  Oh!  One small change that I definitely approve of is the new notification when you finish up a heart.  No longer does the game send you mail, but you get a wiggling heart icon to click on that blossoms into a large notice of what rewards you just got.  Again, it adds more substance to the reward system, and that’s a positive change.

I still don’t really get the megaserver thing and how that will impact me at all.  I noticed that Rata Sum was packed, but that’s neither good nor bad.

Finally, I spent time looking at the traits and creating a new build for my Engineer.  Right now she’s pistol/shield and that feels kind of fun.  The trait changes as a whole get a huge thumbs-up of approval from me.  Traits are easier to understand, to preview, and to change.  It’s going to be great to experiment more with them in the field.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the feature pack.  It may not have all of my most-wanted items (housing?), but the wardrobe and trait improvements are most definitely welcome.

Guild Wars 2: Music theory

organ1One of my growing favorite pasttimes in Guild Wars 2 is to make a note of where special chests are and how to get to them.  You can usually plunder these chests once a day for a green/blue item, but I like that there’s a bit of a challenge to get to them and that they’re often off the beaten path.  Rewards exploring without making it overt.  I can respect that.

I only recently realized that one of these chests comes from a little pipe organ mini-game at the bottom of a river in Caldedon Forest.  Must have rushed over it many times previously, but there it is, sitting there, waiting to be played.  The challenge is to reproduce the Guild Wars 2 theme (the most iconic part of it, at least).  I might have cheated for the answer, but hey, I’m not a musician.  I usually have to look up solutions for music puzzles.

There’s a nice payoff here when you do it: A nearby oyster opens up to reveal the chest and the soundtrack booms out this eerie organ version of the theme.  Plus, there’s a nearby Quaggan who’s humming the tune for both amusement value and a helpful hint as to the solution.

I always wish that games had more cool little things like this, don’t you?

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Guild Wars 2: Prison break

a1So I was doing the full exploration thing of Ebonhawk last night when I came upon the prison.  I wandered in, taking a look at the cells and thinking that they didn’t look that comfortable, when a “suspicious” NPC walks by me and initiates a full-blown prison break right in front of me.

I raised a finger, “Um guys?  Wait?  WAIT!”  Ran after them.  “Guys!  You shouldn’t be out here!”

They incompacitated the guards and ran out onto the streets, picking up helpers while frightening the citizens.  And it was only me and a pig named Monkey as the thin blue line between order and anarchy.

a2A group event started up then as the leader was flagged as a champion mob.  Even though I was the only one around, I figured why not and started attacking.  It took a long time but I kept my pig up just fine while chopping away at the guy, and eventually he died and I was the savior of the hour.  And I got a chunk of XP and karma and… that’s it.  Oh well, I got a cool story out of it.

Guild Wars 2: It’s a bobbly world

bobbl1I hope everyone had a good April 1st!  I was off doing medical stuff for most of the day so I missed really checking out all of the goofs and gags, but I caught up a bit later on.  The Guild Wars 2 community was treated to a game full of bobbleheads, from characters to NPCs to animals.  It wasn’t Super Adventure Box, but it was definitely fun in its own right.

My kids absolutely loved the bobbleheads, especially when I made them wiggle.  That’s the great thing about kids, how they can derive such enjoyment out of silly things.  I was certainly amused too, particularly after pulling out all of my minipets to see what they looked like with enlarged noggins.

All I know is that there’s going to be a lot of broken necks in the game today, or at least a world full of neck braces and moaning going on.

On a different tack, some of my guildies noted that the reset of the monthly achievements is only giving us 15 days to do them due to the upcoming feature pack.  I’m not going to stress out doing them, but I would really like to get my Mesmer as high up in levels as possible.  It would stink to, say, get to level 60, get access to the grandmaster traits, and then lose those come the patch.  I’m currently level 22, so I don’t know how feasible it is to make it to 80 in two weeks with a couple of play hours a day, but I’ll make a good show of it and see how far I can go.

Guild Wars 2: Mesmerized

mez1As my recent posts about Guild Wars 2 have indicated, I’ve been dabbling in a lot of alts, trying to settle down and focus on just one.  Yet for various reasons I’ve been unsatisfied with my stable.  That led me to randomly logging onto my lowbie Mesmer on Friday and subsequently having an epiphany.

Originally, I really liked the idea of playing a Mesmer before the game ever launched.  I think I had one in the beta just to run around the newbie zone, but after GW2 went live, I could never stick with one.  They seemed tailor-made for frustration, as I kept dying between occasionally killing things at a very slow rate.  When I made my current Mesmer, I couldn’t even get her through some of the same basic skill challenges that my other characters had no problems with.

I don’t know what it was on Friday, maybe a willing to experiment or that ongoing personal challenge to get out of my comfort bubble, but I forced myself to spend an evening really investigating what I had here.  I played around with different weapon combos and found that the sword was actually great, visceral fun.  I started killing things quicker, and when I logged out I spent over an hour reading up on Mesmer guides.  I guess I kind of “got” what this class was about and became intrigued at the possibilities.

Temporary pets and messing with the enemy?  I can get behind that.  I started to ignore the whole clones/shatter angle and focused more on my phantasms, quickly swapping between weapon sets to summon different minions.  I think I’m becoming happiest with sword/pistol and scepter/focus as my two sets, and I’m definitely becoming more of a killing machine than I was in the past.

The subsequent two days of playing her showed me that this wasn’t a brief infatuation; I think I might really have a long-term prospect with my Mesmer.  Everyone says that the class is a late bloomer, so I’m taking it easy by going through all of the lowbie zones and working up those levels.  I’m getting more comfortable with her offensive and defensive line-up, figuring out how to deal with packs vs. single mobs, and generally enjoying how cool blurry sword attacks and purple butterflies look.

I should have been keeping up on her armor repair, however.  I was in the middle of a personal story instance when her chest armor just broke, leaving me to fight in my bright yellow flower bra.  Maybe it helped distract the enemy, I don’t know, but I didn’t want to leave to repair since it would reset the entire chapter.  Then I rushed over to Queensdale to jump on the champion train to help me with a couple of daily achievements, hoping that I’d see a repair vendor along the way.  Well, that didn’t happen and I started feeling very conspicuous.  “Naked newbie here!” my character’s looks shouted.  “Please keep your eyes up here!”

One other thing that I started to fiddle with on this character was trying out tailoring.  My every desire is to make more money by selling mats because I hate being broke, but making gear does seem like a good long-term goal if you’re going for ascended stuff.  I don’t know.  Right now I’ve stopped selling my mats and will see if this is something I can get behind.

I did splurge on a new killer whale Quaggan backpack, because I was not previously aware that there were cool cosmetic backpack skins in the trading post.  Another thing I only discovered this past weekend?  That the little red bars (or absence thereof) under the skill buttons indicate whether you’re in range to use that skill or not.  Always learning, I am.

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Guild Wars 2: Stop to smell the events

r1Not having a current living story event going on in Guild Wars 2 is somewhat of a blessing, because the pressure is off to be somewhere and do something specific.  Instead, I’m ping-ponging between my Ranger and Necromancer doing map completion, which is my favorite activity in this game by far.

One thing I’m challenging myself to do is to get out of the run-run-run mentality of trying to finish maps as quickly as possible.  I already have a full 80, there’s no rush.  Instead, I’m exploring around a lot, pausing to listen to NPC conversations, and most importantly doing every event I come across.  I think I missed a lot of events the first time through, especially ones that chain off of each other, and that’s a shame because some tell really interesting little stories.

Last night I was doing the events near the lodge in Wayfarer Foothills that has all of the kids and the snowball fights.  I triggered one that had a kid ask me to hunt a ram for him, and he took the head to his dad who turned it into a decoration for the exterior of the lodge.  Other than the head wildly changing shape depending if it was on the live creature, in the boy’s hands, or on the wall, it was neat to see.  But better were the idiot kids who started a bear ritual with honey on the floor, which then summoned all manner of bears and caused a kid stampede inside the place.

r2Silly as these might be, they make impressions.  I remember them.  And even though they’re not always optimal, I usually don’t regret doing them afterward.  I was so chipper, in fact, that I spent some time refining my snowball-throwing skills instead of waiting for more mobs to kill to complete my heart.

I don’t know if ArenaNet has given up on adding new small events into the game (we’ll have to see if we get a new normal zone, probably), but I hope not.  They add color and flavor and movement in small but important ways.

Guild Wars 2: Bring on the wardrobe!

Wardrobe UI - Wardrobe PanelMy joy and excitement at the upcoming April Feature Pack for Guild Wars 2 ratcheted up 10 notches this morning, as ArenaNet announced that it will be installing a wardrobe system for the game.

The basic rundown:

  • All armor and weapons that a character collects will have their look copied into a new part of the UI that will save the skin.
  • These skins can then be applied at any time to weapons and armor to customize one’s look.
  • These changes require transmutation charges, which will replace transmutation stones/crystals.  “Transmutation Crystals can be directly converted into charges, and Transmutation Stones can be converted at a three-to-one rate.”
  • The wardrobe UI also shows what skins you haven’t collected or unlocked yet.
  • Purchasable town clothes outfits will now go into the wardrobe, but can only be used as a complete look (no piece-mealing the outfit out).
  • Weapon/armor skin unlocks are account-wide.
  • Dyes are unlocked account-wide.
  • “If you already have the same dyes unlocked on multiple characters, when you log in on additional characters, you will receive one unidentified dye for each duplicate dye already unlocked on your account.”
  • Dyes will become harder to find due to demand dropping.
  • Dyes can be sorted by hue and allow you to select favorites.

Seriously, how terrific is this?  So terrific.  Much clothing.  T-shirt wow.

A good, functional, and flexible cosmetic outfit system is something we’ve been clamoring for since the game launched, and it’s so exciting to know that it’s finally coming.  The town clothes idea never worked and transmutation was a hassle.  This is a lot more elegant and even more powerful than what I expected (I thought it would be more like other games’ wardrobe system where you have a separate area to slot gear for looks).

As an in-game fashion junkie, I appreciate that all of these skins won’t be clogging up storage and will be accessible at any time.  What really sparked my interest here is the “collect ‘em all” aspect of this new system.  I hope that a few of the items clogging my bank that are soul-bound to characters that no longer exist (such as a staff from Super Adventure Box) will go straight into the collection, and I am looking forward to hunting down some of the more interesting pieces.

Converting the current transmutation stones/crystals seems fair, especially since I have gobs of them.  ArenaNet definitely will have no qualms selling more charges and more outfits, but that’s fine by me.  If there are ways to earn these charges in the game, then we have options and no reason to complain.  I’ve been holding off buying a lot of town clothes from the store because of the old system, but now I might have to do a shopping splurge.

The dyes thing pleases me too.  Some of my characters have a huge array of dyes and some not so much, and I am looking forward to all of them having those rares I’ve picked up.  In fact, between the dyes and the wardrobe, any new characters I make will have a starting fashion advantage.

The only thing I’m not seeing and that I would want is the option to save outfits (and save trait builds, while we’re at it).  Not a huge thing, not a deal-breaker, but it’s something I’ve grown accustomed to in RIFT and LOTRO and wouldn’t mind seeing here.

I think the new wardrobe system is going to make hunting and collecting skins a much more powerful reward incentive going forward, too.  I trust ArenaNet knows that when it looks ahead to future content releases.  Looks over stats, I always say!  And now I can have both, all of the time.

I don’t get Guild Wars 2′s dungeons

As an MMO hopper, MMO sampler, and MMO juggler of yore, I acknowledge that I’ll never truly know the ins and outs of a particular game the way someone will who plays that single title extensively.  So there’s always more to learn, but even so I have to admit to being really puzzled by Guild Wars 2′s dungeons.

I’ve been doing a couple of these every night since my re-entry a few weeks ago, and I am still mystified as to their purpose and design.  Unlike every other MMO I’ve played, it seems as though the group consensus is to avoid mobs at all cost, using speed to dash by them and terrain tricks to get them to reset, so that we can blast right to the boss.  Then most of the bosses are attacked with another set of tricks and terrain quirks, such as hiding in this corner or jumping up on that ledge.  Then there’s the “everyone stand on the exact same spot so we look like an unholy abomination of arms and legs and buffs” tactic too.  We get loot and gold — which is nice — and leave.  And I walk out of these dungeons just wondering what I’m supposed to be getting out of them.

There’s a lot to be said commending what I’ve seen ArenaNet do here.  Each dungeon has two major modes and several paths that the group can vote on, although almost all my groups choose a tried-and-proven path of least resistance.  The design is cool and I love the idea of flexible dungeon runs. Some of the boss fights that we aren’t tricking are pretty engaging and the battles can be nailbiting as we try to keep everyone up and fighting.  I love my Ranger’s spirit of nature pet, since it can do an instant-rez of anyone nearby.

But I can’t shake the feeling that either the playerbase or the design team or both have conspired to create runs that teach us to be cowards.  Run.  Flee.  Avoid.  Trick.  Loot.  If I stop to attack anything, I get told to cut that out and get running again.  It seems as though we pass up waves of mobs (and their associated bags of XP and loot) just to get it over with already.

When I’ve mentioned or joked about this to guildmates or party members, pretty much everyone ignores me.  I guess it’s what we’re all supposed to be used to by now — I’m not giving a brilliant new observation.

It’s not even a new thing to the devs, who more or less defend the right to go ahead and skip mobs.  So… why throw in trash mobs to begin with?  Why deliberately design a dungeon that encourages such behavior instead of creating a dungeon that’s just boss fights and nothing but?  Works for plenty of TSW instances and it wouldn’t make the dungeons come across as a failed experiment.

I’m not a huge fan of plowing through trash mobs, but I don’t feel much like a hero for avoiding them, either.  Maybe I don’t get what the community already understands, and maybe it’s the lack of dedicated roles that turn these dungeons into blitz fests, but… I’m stumped.